It’s 5:30pm on a Wednesday. Peak Hour.
I’m at Wynyard station, an underground train station in Sydney. It has an uncanny ability to be stinking hot all year round and on a day like today it was like an oven! The smell of hundreds of sweaty people in close proximity was familiar smell — “Mmmm home-time”
The humidity was unbearable — where does it comes from? I can only conclude it is a by product of the sweat of 1000s of commuters…best not think about it, or breathe!
The high pitch sound of the incoming train squeals. There is an audible sigh of relief as we feel that rush of hot air created by the approaching train — time to get out of this hell out of here!
Impatience is high, intensified by the heat and the overcrowding. It’s your typical peak hour scramble to get through the doors and into the carriage before the whistle blow, almost like it is a race.
As usual there are too many people — people are overflowing out the doors.
The station attendant starts to shout “move inside the carriage, up and down the stairs please!”
A typical 5% of passengers respond…
“Great!” is the thought as we push pass those standing in the door way in an attempt to move deeper into the carriage to allow those behind us to also fit.
I see some people around me put themselves into less-than-ideal spots on the train giving others space and allowing more people to board the train. The majority however just stay where they are like they have claimed their land on the train and will be soon filing for independence.
Being in a less-than-ideal spot myself and not exactly comfortable either. I remembered a quote from when I was at the Royal Military College training to be an officer, a leader, in the Australian Army — “Leaders eat last” — they mean this literally too.
As a leader you put yourself in an uncomfortable or worse position so those around you don’t have to be.
Leadership is about self sacrifice, putting others before yourself — therefore as a leader you make sure those around you have eaten, that is your duty of care. Once everyone is fed, only then you are free to eat. If by that stage it’s too late, then too bad — that’s the cost of leadership.
“You lead to serve” is another saying in the military, it’s a privilege not a right to lead. As a leader you sacrifice your own interests, in the service of others.
To put it simply — you put others needs before your own.
“When you become a leader you give up the right to think about yourself.” — Gerald Brooks
What I was seeing was leadership. Self-sacrifice so those around them can get home comfortably and with minimal friction — well as comfortable as you can be on an overcrowded train!
Leadership isn’t something you have, it’s something you do. It is small every day actions.
Many think that leadership is a title or position, something that is magically bestowed upon you and you suddenly wake up a great leader. It couldn’t be further from the truth.
Being a leader requires work — no one is born a leader. It’s something you choose to do, it’s something that you work on constantly through small everyday actions done consistently in the service of others.
Next time you’re catching the train ask yourself, am I in someone’s way? Can I move somewhere else, sacrifice my spot on the train to help others? Give up my seat perhaps? Ask yourself — Am I being a leader?